A black and white drawing of a rock formation.

The traditional approach to compliance is filled with inefficiencies like painstaking evidence gathering, manual tool-by-tool access reviews, and similar tedious box-checking routines.

It’s no surprise that many organizations are striving toward a more streamlined workflow to keep up with the ever-changing regulatory environment they operate in — and embracing compliance automation helps them achieve this goal faster. The 2023 KPMG Chief Compliance Officer Survey also identifies process automation as one of the main drivers of compliance budget spend in the next two years.

In this guide, we’ll explore the value of automating your compliance processes and help you understand why this spending is more than justified. You’ll then learn about the six steps you can take to automate the critical aspects of your compliance management program.

What is compliance automation?

Compliance automation is the process of using dedicated software solutions to streamline various compliance procedures relevant to your industry. Such software tracks your internal systems, processes, and controls to check for adherence to applicable regulations, standards, and their granular policies without your ongoing involvement.

Some of the main areas simplified by automation software include:

The end goal of automation software is to leverage advanced technology to continuously validate controls, free up time for compliance teams, and reduce the risk of oversight caused by compliance fatigue and manual work. Carefully implemented automation boosts operational productivity and makes continuous compliance a reality. 

How does compliance automation work?

Compliance automation solutions often rely on technical system integrations and increasingly leverage AI, ML, and data analytics, allowing the use of predefined or custom triggers to initiate specific actions. For example, you can set up automated tests to examine the status of information security controls aligned to ISO 27001. You can then configure your compliance management system to alert you of any control failures detected and either fix the problem or suggest appropriate action.

Many automation tools also come with pre-configured content for automating certain compliance tasks mapped to regulations and standards like HIPAA, GDPR, and SOC 2. This eliminates guesswork and tells you how to ensure full compliance end to end.

Benefits of compliance automation

The most visible benefits of automation are accelerated compliance operations, real-time control validation, and the replacement of disparate tracking systems with a more centralized, optimized workflow. Additional benefits include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Using compliance automation unblocks resources invested in manual processes like control testing and data collection, resulting in cost savings for your organization. You can also avoid the considerable financial repercussions of non-compliance with mandatory regulations.
  • Proactive non-compliance alerts: Traditional compliance management leaves too much room for non-compliance to go undetected. An automated platform triggers alerts to notify you if anything falls out of compliance.
  • Improved risk management: A capable compliance platform enables risk management automation and lets you augment your incident response system, ensuring more timely risk remediation.
  • Efficient compliance audit management: Both external and internal compliance audits can be highly time-consuming and data-intensive. An automated solution makes it easier to schedule and run audits, as well as compile evidence with minimal legwork. 
  • Real-time visibility of data and compliance health: Compliance automation tools typically feature comprehensive yet digestible dashboards with a snapshot view of your compliance posture.

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How to get started with compliance automation: Standard process

Moving toward an automated compliance management system involves the following six steps:

  1. Review your current compliance program.
  2. Plan process automation.
  3. Choose and implement automation tools.
  4. Maintain documentation.
  5. Monitor results.
  6. Respond to alerts and remediate issues.

Step 1: Review your current compliance program

There’s no one-size-fits-all roadmap to automation — start by assessing your current compliance program to determine the scope for process automation.

This leaves you with an important question: What should you compare your processes against?

The answer lies in checking out the guidelines of specific standards or regulations you need to comply with. For instance, if you’re looking to get HIPAA compliant, it’s clear that your first focal point should be patient data security and management. You’ll set up an automated system for monitoring electronic health records (EHRs), access to servers, and other mandated controls.

Whatever standard you’re automating for, perform a gap analysis to identify the main areas for improvement, such as poor access controls or an ineffective incident response system.

Additionally, internal factors like budget may warrant attention. For example, if you’re spending resources on manual evidence gathering, you may want to prioritize optimizing the process when developing your automation strategy.

Step 2: Plan process automation

After reviewing your current compliance system, initiate the planning stage consisting of two steps:

  1. Defining compliance objectives
  2. Outlining the processes you’ll implement to achieve them

For the first step, clarify what you need to achieve to ensure adherence to the relevant standards. You can use the applicable certification requirements to flesh out any concrete action items, measurable metrics, employee training requirements, etc.

The next step is to work backward from your objectives to identify roles and responsibilities and see what needs to be done to fulfill them. For example, if your objective is to offer a centralized base for different stakeholders to update compliance evidence, you may need to set up an automated record-keeping system with unified visibility.

To design automation processes better and establish overall accountability, create an automation checklist with questions like:

  • Which procedures can be automated with a decent cost-benefit ratio?
  • What manual processes need to be reduced?
  • Who should be the task owner(s) for overseeing automation functions?

Step 3: Choose and implement automation tools

Completing the above two steps should give you enough clarity on the compliance areas you need to automate. The next step is to match those areas with the corresponding automation tools.

There are various platforms you can choose from — some only focus on a particular aspect of compliance (e.g., risk assessments or security compliance), while others are more comprehensive and let you streamline several compliance tasks in one go.

Your chosen solution will largely depend on your automation needs and budget. You can also consider the following factors when comparing different options:

  • Ease of use: You may want to steer away from hard-to-navigate solutions with complex configurations. Look for a platform with a user-friendly interface that makes employee onboarding and training easy.
  • Data collection and analysis: Choose a compliance automation platform that reduces the need for screenshots, spreadsheets, and email chains during evidence collection. It should automatically pull relevant data from preset access points and turn it into actionable insights for your compliance team.
  • Robust integrations: To ensure productivity, your chosen automation tool must integrate seamlessly with your existing software. Otherwise, you may need to stretch your daily schedule to switch between multiple platforms to corroborate data.

Step 4: Maintain documentation

As you focus on automating your compliance processes, it’s easy to overlook the importance of comprehensive documentation — and that’s a recipe for last-minute panic during mandatory surveillance or recertification audits.

One of the best practices here is to keep records of your automated processes, particularly your key compliance activities and changes made after the last audit. Here are some of the critical data points you should document:

  • Processes automated
  • Breaches and incidents registered
  • Response actions
  • Data recorded

The good news is that most compliance platforms let you streamline documentation and create comprehensive reports without labor-intensive processes. Should you fall out of compliance, a clear trail of documentation helps you analyze loopholes and take corrective action quickly. It also leads to smoother external audits by facilitating a more efficient evidence-checking process.

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Step 5: Monitor results

Once your automated system is up and running, you should track its efficacy to see if it’s helping you achieve the internal compliance goals you set in Step 2.

Due to the evolution of your internal operations, technologies, and the regulatory landscape, automation may require periodic revisions. That’s why you need to conduct regular audits to spot new areas for automation and remove redundant or ineffective functions.

As you perform audits from a self-regulatory standpoint, first pay attention to the readiness of your compliance posture and then review micro-level components like entity-wide controls and vulnerability assessments.

Step 6: Respond to alerts and remediate issues

Round up your compliance automation program by tailoring your alert configurations and defining how you want your internal teams to remediate the issues detected in real time. You can automate tasks like incident analysis and prioritization to reduce the overwhelm caused by keeping track of multiple alerts.

While building your workflow for this step, it’s good to have a framework around manual and automated tasks. The idea is to ensure that your compliance team is aware of the extent of automation implemented and can assign the remediation tasks to the relevant personnel.

Keep in mind that the nature of remediation processes will depend on your specific regulatory landscape or industry.

Automate your compliance program effortlessly with Vanta

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use compliance automation solution, Vanta can help you get the most out of your investment. It’s a comprehensive GRC solution that automates up to 90% of the work involved in implementing and maintaining different compliance frameworks. 

Vanta offers built-in frameworks for over 20 commonly used standards and regulations, like SOC 2, GDPR, ISO 27001, and PCI-DSS. These frameworks act as guideposts that steer you toward suitable compliance decisions with automated evidence collection, configurable controls, and continuous monitoring.

Here are some examples of the key areas of your compliance program you can optimize with Vanta:

  • Auto-generate compliance documents.
  • Create framework-specific policies faster with standard templates.
  • Get notifications based on task ownership.
  • Use automated security questionnaires to perform due diligence on third parties.
  • Minimize the chances of misused credentials with streamlined access reviews.
  • Conduct hourly tests and receive helpful prompts to fix potential non-compliance.

You get a unified dashboard with real-time overviews of relevant data, which enables effortless monitoring of all your compliance processes. We recommend leveraging Vanta AI to automate mundane work and extract desired information from extensive documents.

The platform connects to over 300 popular solutions (task trackers, cloud providers, HRIS systems, etc.), which allows for process automation across disparate systems. The best part is that you can connect your compliance activities to ROI and display the value of your investment.

Schedule a demo today to see how Vanta can help you get rid of outdated and inefficient GRC systems.

{{cta_testimonial7="/cta-modules"}}

Compliance

Compliance automation: What it entails and how to get started

A black and white drawing of a rock formation.

The traditional approach to compliance is filled with inefficiencies like painstaking evidence gathering, manual tool-by-tool access reviews, and similar tedious box-checking routines.

It’s no surprise that many organizations are striving toward a more streamlined workflow to keep up with the ever-changing regulatory environment they operate in — and embracing compliance automation helps them achieve this goal faster. The 2023 KPMG Chief Compliance Officer Survey also identifies process automation as one of the main drivers of compliance budget spend in the next two years.

In this guide, we’ll explore the value of automating your compliance processes and help you understand why this spending is more than justified. You’ll then learn about the six steps you can take to automate the critical aspects of your compliance management program.

What is compliance automation?

Compliance automation is the process of using dedicated software solutions to streamline various compliance procedures relevant to your industry. Such software tracks your internal systems, processes, and controls to check for adherence to applicable regulations, standards, and their granular policies without your ongoing involvement.

Some of the main areas simplified by automation software include:

The end goal of automation software is to leverage advanced technology to continuously validate controls, free up time for compliance teams, and reduce the risk of oversight caused by compliance fatigue and manual work. Carefully implemented automation boosts operational productivity and makes continuous compliance a reality. 

How does compliance automation work?

Compliance automation solutions often rely on technical system integrations and increasingly leverage AI, ML, and data analytics, allowing the use of predefined or custom triggers to initiate specific actions. For example, you can set up automated tests to examine the status of information security controls aligned to ISO 27001. You can then configure your compliance management system to alert you of any control failures detected and either fix the problem or suggest appropriate action.

Many automation tools also come with pre-configured content for automating certain compliance tasks mapped to regulations and standards like HIPAA, GDPR, and SOC 2. This eliminates guesswork and tells you how to ensure full compliance end to end.

Benefits of compliance automation

The most visible benefits of automation are accelerated compliance operations, real-time control validation, and the replacement of disparate tracking systems with a more centralized, optimized workflow. Additional benefits include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Using compliance automation unblocks resources invested in manual processes like control testing and data collection, resulting in cost savings for your organization. You can also avoid the considerable financial repercussions of non-compliance with mandatory regulations.
  • Proactive non-compliance alerts: Traditional compliance management leaves too much room for non-compliance to go undetected. An automated platform triggers alerts to notify you if anything falls out of compliance.
  • Improved risk management: A capable compliance platform enables risk management automation and lets you augment your incident response system, ensuring more timely risk remediation.
  • Efficient compliance audit management: Both external and internal compliance audits can be highly time-consuming and data-intensive. An automated solution makes it easier to schedule and run audits, as well as compile evidence with minimal legwork. 
  • Real-time visibility of data and compliance health: Compliance automation tools typically feature comprehensive yet digestible dashboards with a snapshot view of your compliance posture.

{{cta_withimage3="/cta-modules"}}

How to get started with compliance automation: Standard process

Moving toward an automated compliance management system involves the following six steps:

  1. Review your current compliance program.
  2. Plan process automation.
  3. Choose and implement automation tools.
  4. Maintain documentation.
  5. Monitor results.
  6. Respond to alerts and remediate issues.

Step 1: Review your current compliance program

There’s no one-size-fits-all roadmap to automation — start by assessing your current compliance program to determine the scope for process automation.

This leaves you with an important question: What should you compare your processes against?

The answer lies in checking out the guidelines of specific standards or regulations you need to comply with. For instance, if you’re looking to get HIPAA compliant, it’s clear that your first focal point should be patient data security and management. You’ll set up an automated system for monitoring electronic health records (EHRs), access to servers, and other mandated controls.

Whatever standard you’re automating for, perform a gap analysis to identify the main areas for improvement, such as poor access controls or an ineffective incident response system.

Additionally, internal factors like budget may warrant attention. For example, if you’re spending resources on manual evidence gathering, you may want to prioritize optimizing the process when developing your automation strategy.

Step 2: Plan process automation

After reviewing your current compliance system, initiate the planning stage consisting of two steps:

  1. Defining compliance objectives
  2. Outlining the processes you’ll implement to achieve them

For the first step, clarify what you need to achieve to ensure adherence to the relevant standards. You can use the applicable certification requirements to flesh out any concrete action items, measurable metrics, employee training requirements, etc.

The next step is to work backward from your objectives to identify roles and responsibilities and see what needs to be done to fulfill them. For example, if your objective is to offer a centralized base for different stakeholders to update compliance evidence, you may need to set up an automated record-keeping system with unified visibility.

To design automation processes better and establish overall accountability, create an automation checklist with questions like:

  • Which procedures can be automated with a decent cost-benefit ratio?
  • What manual processes need to be reduced?
  • Who should be the task owner(s) for overseeing automation functions?

Step 3: Choose and implement automation tools

Completing the above two steps should give you enough clarity on the compliance areas you need to automate. The next step is to match those areas with the corresponding automation tools.

There are various platforms you can choose from — some only focus on a particular aspect of compliance (e.g., risk assessments or security compliance), while others are more comprehensive and let you streamline several compliance tasks in one go.

Your chosen solution will largely depend on your automation needs and budget. You can also consider the following factors when comparing different options:

  • Ease of use: You may want to steer away from hard-to-navigate solutions with complex configurations. Look for a platform with a user-friendly interface that makes employee onboarding and training easy.
  • Data collection and analysis: Choose a compliance automation platform that reduces the need for screenshots, spreadsheets, and email chains during evidence collection. It should automatically pull relevant data from preset access points and turn it into actionable insights for your compliance team.
  • Robust integrations: To ensure productivity, your chosen automation tool must integrate seamlessly with your existing software. Otherwise, you may need to stretch your daily schedule to switch between multiple platforms to corroborate data.

Step 4: Maintain documentation

As you focus on automating your compliance processes, it’s easy to overlook the importance of comprehensive documentation — and that’s a recipe for last-minute panic during mandatory surveillance or recertification audits.

One of the best practices here is to keep records of your automated processes, particularly your key compliance activities and changes made after the last audit. Here are some of the critical data points you should document:

  • Processes automated
  • Breaches and incidents registered
  • Response actions
  • Data recorded

The good news is that most compliance platforms let you streamline documentation and create comprehensive reports without labor-intensive processes. Should you fall out of compliance, a clear trail of documentation helps you analyze loopholes and take corrective action quickly. It also leads to smoother external audits by facilitating a more efficient evidence-checking process.

{{cta_simple1}}

Step 5: Monitor results

Once your automated system is up and running, you should track its efficacy to see if it’s helping you achieve the internal compliance goals you set in Step 2.

Due to the evolution of your internal operations, technologies, and the regulatory landscape, automation may require periodic revisions. That’s why you need to conduct regular audits to spot new areas for automation and remove redundant or ineffective functions.

As you perform audits from a self-regulatory standpoint, first pay attention to the readiness of your compliance posture and then review micro-level components like entity-wide controls and vulnerability assessments.

Step 6: Respond to alerts and remediate issues

Round up your compliance automation program by tailoring your alert configurations and defining how you want your internal teams to remediate the issues detected in real time. You can automate tasks like incident analysis and prioritization to reduce the overwhelm caused by keeping track of multiple alerts.

While building your workflow for this step, it’s good to have a framework around manual and automated tasks. The idea is to ensure that your compliance team is aware of the extent of automation implemented and can assign the remediation tasks to the relevant personnel.

Keep in mind that the nature of remediation processes will depend on your specific regulatory landscape or industry.

Automate your compliance program effortlessly with Vanta

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use compliance automation solution, Vanta can help you get the most out of your investment. It’s a comprehensive GRC solution that automates up to 90% of the work involved in implementing and maintaining different compliance frameworks. 

Vanta offers built-in frameworks for over 20 commonly used standards and regulations, like SOC 2, GDPR, ISO 27001, and PCI-DSS. These frameworks act as guideposts that steer you toward suitable compliance decisions with automated evidence collection, configurable controls, and continuous monitoring.

Here are some examples of the key areas of your compliance program you can optimize with Vanta:

  • Auto-generate compliance documents.
  • Create framework-specific policies faster with standard templates.
  • Get notifications based on task ownership.
  • Use automated security questionnaires to perform due diligence on third parties.
  • Minimize the chances of misused credentials with streamlined access reviews.
  • Conduct hourly tests and receive helpful prompts to fix potential non-compliance.

You get a unified dashboard with real-time overviews of relevant data, which enables effortless monitoring of all your compliance processes. We recommend leveraging Vanta AI to automate mundane work and extract desired information from extensive documents.

The platform connects to over 300 popular solutions (task trackers, cloud providers, HRIS systems, etc.), which allows for process automation across disparate systems. The best part is that you can connect your compliance activities to ROI and display the value of your investment.

Schedule a demo today to see how Vanta can help you get rid of outdated and inefficient GRC systems.

{{cta_testimonial7="/cta-modules"}}

Webinar: Scaling your GRC program with automation and AI

Learn how to automate compliance processes, strategies to streamline risk assessments and ways to use automation and AI on vendor security reviews.

Webinar: Scaling your GRC program with automation and AI

Learn how to automate compliance processes, strategies to streamline risk assessments and ways to use automation and AI on vendor security reviews.

Webinar: Scaling your GRC program with automation and AI

Learn how to automate compliance processes, strategies to streamline risk assessments and ways to use automation and AI on vendor security reviews.

Role:GRC responsibilities:
Board of directors
Central to the overarching GRC strategy, this group sets the direction for the compliance strategy. They determine which standards and regulations are necessary for compliance and align the GRC strategy with business objectives.
Chief financial officerPrimary responsibility for the success of the GRC program and for reporting results to the board.
Operations managers from relevant departmentsThis group owns processes. They are responsible for the success and direction of risk management and compliance within their departments.
Representatives from relevant departments
These are the activity owners. These team members are responsible for carrying out specific compliance and risk management tasks within their departments and for integrating these tasks into their workflows.
Contract managers from relevant department
These team members are responsible for managing interactions with vendors and other third parties in their department to ensure all risk management and compliance measures are being taken.
Chief information security officer (CISO)Defines the organization’s information security policy, designs risk and vulnerability assessments, and develops information security policies.
Data protection officer (DPO) or legal counselDevelops goals for data privacy based on legal regulations and other compliance needs, designs and implements privacy policies and practices, and assesses these practices for effectiveness.
GRC leadResponsible for overseeing the execution of the GRC program in collaboration with the executive team as well as maintaining the organization’s library of security controls.
Cybersecurity analyst(s)Implements and monitors cybersecurity measures that are in line with the GRC program and business objectives.
Compliance analyst(s)Monitors the organization’s compliance with all regulations and standards necessary, identifies any compliance gaps, and works to mitigate them.
Risk analyst(s)Carries out the risk management program for the organization and serves as a resource for risk management across various departments, including identifying, mitigating, and monitoring risks.
IT security specialist(s)Implements security controls within the IT system in coordination with the cybersecurity analyst(s).

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